The Angling Trust's discussions with the Environment Agency on the vexed issues of the coarse angling rod licence for the use of multiple rods and charging juniors to fish look likely to produce a result that will please both youngsters and the many carp and specimen anglers who feel aggrieved at having to buy two separate rod licences.
In an answer to a parliamentary question this week, Fisheries Minister George Eustice confirmed proposed changes to the licence from April 2017, including "a full year rolling licence rather than a fixed single season; a licence for a maximum of three rods rather than the current two and a free junior licence for anglers under the age of 16." These will be advertised formally in the Spring.
The Angling Trust welcomes these announcements because it has received a great deal of feedback from members that the current arrangements are not fair to carp and other specimen anglers using three rods, but being charged for four.
The other issues that have been under discussion with the Agency covered the possibility of abolishing the junior licence in order to encourage more youngsters to take up fishing and introducing a 365-day rolling licence rather than the current 31st March end date. It was felt that a year's rolling licence was fairer than charging new anglers who purchase one halfway through the 'season' the full 12 month cost for just a part year.
News of the changes put forward by the Environment Agency has been welcomed by leading figures from the Angling Trust and the carp fishing community.
Martin Salter, Campaigns Chief for the Angling Trust, said: "Carp anglers will obviously be pleased but tench and bream anglers like myself, who usually fish large pits with two rods at a time, would sometimes like to use a third rod to switch quickly to a new method or to stalk a fish showing in the margins.
"Whilst many anglers I know won't buy two separate licences at the moment, they would be happy to pay a fair price to use a third rod occasionally. We are particularly pleased that the EA have taken this forward and are prepared to forego the income from the £5 junior licence. I certainly wouldn't mind paying a bit more for my own licence if it meant that more juniors under 16 could fish for free, because anything that attracts youngsters into our sport has to be good for the future of angling."
Lee Jackson, former world carp record holder from the Tackle Box in Kent, said: "Excellent news and not before time, too. It will be of great benefit to anglers, especially carpers, and how brilliant it is to be able to get youngsters into the sport without having to worry about a licence. Well done to the Government, the EA and the Angling Trust for applying common sense."
Sarah Chare, Head of Fisheries for the Environment Agency, said: "Having listened to the Angling Trust and anglers’ views in our rod licence survey last year we have a number of proposals that we will be advertising this spring. These include a 365 licence, a three-rod licence and a free junior licence which we think could play an important part of getting more young people fishing and securing the future of the sport. If approved these changes will not come into effect until March 2017."
Simon Crow, Editor of Carp-Talk, added: "The vast majority of fisheries up and down the country only allow carp anglers to use a maximum of three rods. It therefore seems a waste that we need to buy two two-rod licences to cater for this. It would be so much more user friendly if a third rod licence supplement was introduced and I'm delighted that this long overdue reform now looks like happening."
Clive Copeland, Head of Angling Development at the Angling Trust, added: "Our research tells us that the majority of anglers start fishing when they are young. It is vitally important that we make it as easy as possible for young people to take up fishing and having a free junior licence will help us to do this. Healthy numbers of young anglers are obviously crucial to the future of our sport."
The Angling Trust first raised these issues with the Environment Agency at the beginning of last year following some initial discussions at the Carp Society Winter Show at Sandown as covered in Martin Salter's Fighting for Fishing blog on the Angling Trust website.